What To Know Before You Wire Money

Scammers pressure you to wire money to them because it's easy to take your money and disappear. Wiring money with services such as MoneyGram, Ria, and Western Union is like sending cash — once you send it, you usually can't get it back. Never wire money to anyone you have not met in person — no matter the reason they give.

Why Scammers Want You to Wire Money

Wiring money using services like MoneyGram, Ria, and Western Union can be a useful way to send money to someone you know and trust quickly. But scammers will try to get you to wire money to them too. 

Scammers know that once you wire money to them, there's usually no way to get your money back. Scammers can quickly pick up your money from any of the wire transfer company's locations throughout the world. After, it's nearly impossible to identify wo picked up the money or track them down.

Scammers also know you will not have the same protections you get by paying using a credit card. Report anyone you do not know who asks you to pay this way to the Federal Trade Commission.

You can use these tips to protect yourself from money wiring scams:

  • Never wire money through companies like MoneyGram, Ria, or Western Union to anyone you haven't met in person.
  • Do not wire money to anyone who says they work at a government agency such as the Federal Trade Commission, IRS, Social Security Administration, U.S Customs and Border Protection, or any well-known company.
  • Never wire money to anyone who pressures you into paying immediately.
  • Do not wire money to anyone who says a wire transfer is the only way to pay.
  • Never wire money to someone who tries to sell you a product over the phone (It is illegal for a telemarketer to ask you to pay with a wire transfer). 

How to Spot Common Wiring Scams

These are some common ways scammers try to convince people to wire money.

Apartment and Vacation Rental Scams:

You respond to an advertisement for an apartment or vacation rental with surprisingly low rent. When someone answers, they tell you to wire money to cover an application fee, security deposit, first month's rent, or a vacation rental fee. But scammers often trick people by putting their own contact information on apartment or vacation rentals they stole from legitimate advertisements. After you wire the money, the person you sent the money to disappears and you find out that there is no apartment or vacation rental.

Fake Check Scams:

Someone sends you a check and tells you to deposit it. They tell you to wire some of all of the money back to them, or another person. Since the money appears in your bank account, you do it. But the check is fake. It can take weeks for the bank to figure it out, but when it does, the bank will want you to repay the money you withdrew.

Scammers make up lots of stories to try to convince you to deposit a check and wire money:

  • Scammers will say you won a prize and need to wire money back to cover taxes and fees.
  • Scammers will say you got a job you applied for and send you a check to purchase supplies but tell you to wire part of the money back to them or to someone else.
  • Scammers say the check is part of a "mystery shopping" assignment to evaluate a wire transfer service. 
  • Scammers use a check to overpay you for something you're selling online, then ask you to wire back the extra money.

Family Emergency Scams:

You get an unexpected and frantic call from someone saying they are a family member or close friend. They say they need money to get out of trouble and to wire money right away. Ask yourself: Is there really an emergency? Is it really your friend or family calling or someone calling on their behalf? It could be a scammer. Scammers call and pretend to be someone you know. Now, they can even use artificial intelligence technology to imitate your family or friend's voice to sound very real.

Romance Scams:

Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites, apps, or social media. Once they connect with you, they work to build trust and will message and talk with you several times per day. Eventually, they make up a story — like saying they have an emergency or want to travel to visit you. But there is no emergency or visit — they are not the person they claim to be, and they will take your money.

Utility Scams:

You get a call from someone claiming to be from your gas, water, or electric company. They say they'll cut off your services unless you pay immediately by wiring money to them. These scammers want to scare you into sending money before you have time to confirm what they're saying. Real utility companies will not do this. A quick call to your utility company using the phone number on your bill or the company's website would tell you it's a scam. 

What To Do If You Wired Money to a Scammer

Contact the wire transfer company you used right away and tell them it was a fraudulent transfer. Ask them to reverse the wire transfer and give you your money back.

  • MoneyGram: 1-800-926-9400
  • Ria (non-Walmart transfers): 1-877-443-1399
  • Ria (Walmart2Walmart and Walmart2World transfers): 1-855-355-2144
  • Western Union: 1-800-448-1492

If you sent the wire transfer through South Shore Bank, contact the Bank immediately and report the fraudulent transfer.

If anyone demanded you to wire money, report it to the FTC.